By John Denton
December 9, 2012
PHOENIX – At the end of a nine-day, five-game road trip and somewhat running on fumes from all of the traveling and living out of suitcases, the Orlando Magic got some much-needed punch Sunday night from their reserves.
And when the Magic’s 98-90 defeat of the hapless Phoenix Suns was complete, head coach Jacque Vaughn praised his team for getting contributions from all over the roster. J.J. Redick’s 20 points and nine assists and another 19 points and nine rebounds from rookie Andrew Nicholson helped the Magic go 3-2 on their longest trip of the season and head back home with some positive vibes.
``In a game like this where it’s the fifth game of a long road trip I knew our bench would be key,’’ said Redick, who tied a career-high with the nine assists. ``Obviously I shot well in the first half, but I thought Andrew and E’Twaun (Moore) gave us nice lifts off the bench. … It’s a game where we shared the ball and everybody got it, including the bench. So it’s a perfect sign of a team win.’’
A trip that started with impressive victories against the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors ended in similar fashion when the Magic (8-12) played with a purpose in the second half. Orlando shot 56 percent in the second half and had 16 assists on their 19 baskets over the final 24 minutes.
``That was a great team win. Guys contributed off the bench and we needed them tonight,’’ Vaughn said. ``We gave great effort down the stretch and had really good execution. It was just a good team win for us.’’
Redick said that it meant the world to the Magic to go out on the road for its longest stretch yet and come home with a winning record during the trip. He said 3-2 away from home is quite an accomplishment for a team with so much youth.
``It’s very important, especially for us after we go into it 5-10 with five games coming up on the road against tough competition,’’ Redick said. ``We knew this would be a challenge and for us to come away with a winning record it was a big step for our group.’’
The Magic’s starting five again struggled at the start of the game and early in the third quarter, and Vaughn wasted no time going to his reserves. Redick poured in the points in the first half (17 of them), and scorched the Suns in the second half with his passing. Many of his pick-and-roll plays went to Nicholson, who made his first six shots and finished nine of 11 from the floor.
``We were pretty productive off the bench and we came in and changed the pace of the game,’’ said Nicholson, who dominated his matchup against Luis Scola. ``I’m going out there and playing hard and the guys are trusting in me.’’
Nicholson, the 19th pick of the first round of the NBA Draft by the Magic, notched career highs in points and rebounds, besting the 15 points that he scored on Nov. 21 against the Detroit Pistons and the five rebounds he’s had twice. The rookie power forward had a tremendous trip, scoring eight points against Utah and 14 versus Sacramento before Sunday’s strong finale.
Vaughn’s confidence has grown so much in the rookie power forward that the coach drew up a play for Nicholson in the final two minutes after the Suns had crept back to within five points of the lead. The result was a 15-foot jumper from the baseline from the sweet-shooting rookie.
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